I will readily admit that I’m not the world’s greatest cook. When all of the other girls of my small school were taking home economics classes, I was THE (and yes I do me the ONLY girl) who never enrolled in a single, solitary course where I learned to cook or sew. Even at the ripe young age of fifteen, I was too busy charting the course of my future – my prize Christmas present that year as a large leather briefcase – I had high expectations for myself and didn’t have time to bother with learning how to cook (I figured I could fit that into my life later on). But with that being said, I can appreciate a well written recipe and don’t waste the irony on leadership. There’s a special mix that has to go into making a leader that women especially can relate to. A pinch of this, a heaping teaspoon of that, a dash of that…you get the point. Sometimes the recipe will vary depending on the cook but the basics are the same, those same fundamental principles still will hold true. It’s the core leadership values that define you as a leader.
What ‘Core Values’ does every true leader posses – at least to some varying degree? Again, the recipe will vary depending on the cook (leader) but the underlying principle is still there. There are certain values that every leader has to have if they’re to actually to consider themselves a leader, a way that they have to look into themselves, see themselves and hope that others see them. It is from these core values that they base their decisions as leaders. It is what they base the foundation of all their remaining leadership principles and styles. If a leader has a strong core foundation, then the house that they build around them will continue to be strong and true – something that will stand the test of time, challenges, stress and other battles that may come your way.
So what are these core values you ask – what is the magic recipe to make you a great leader? First, honesty. You must first be honest with yourself and who you are both as a person and as a leader. Never lie to yourself or those around you for the sake of getting ahead because Karma will come back to haunt you at some point. Secondly, you need a healthy dash of self-confidence. This doesn’t mean that you need to be arrogant, boastful or prideful, but you do need to be confident in who you are, your abilities and your talents. You need to own your ideas and take credit when your do, but be willing to give credit when it is not yours to take. Be willing to speak up for yourself and not let others run over you or run you down, walk tall with your eyes up, looking forward for the life ahead.
As you continue to mix up this leadership bundle, you also need to add in a scoop of respect. You need to have respect for yourself as well as respect for others. As a leader, it is both equally important to respect yourself and protect your time – you probably have a family of your own or at the very least require down time for yourself to recharge your personal battery. Respect yourself enough to make time for yourself – no phone calls, emails, text messages, etc. – unplug from the world, get away, go get a massage, get your hair done, go to the park, the gym, art class, whatever it is that YOU do for YOU. Make sure that you schedule YOU time. But as a leader, you also have to respect others and their time as well. Leaders are only as successful as their team members. Give them credit and accolades often. Let them know that you appreciate their hard work and the time they put in away from their families to get the job done. Respect is a two-way street – the more you give, the more you get.
A fourth ingredient is humbleness. You have to remember who put you in the position you are today. Very few people became leaders by magic and while you may have gotten ahead because your family owns the building/business – that doesn’t mean you may have always come from a privileged life. Networking is a vital skill of leaders – people remember you (good and bad) and you want them to know that you remember where you came from. People love the hometown kid that made good and love you even more when you come back home and pay homage to your roots (even if your roots are in the mailroom or kitchen staff). You’re never too good to go back and work in the trenches.
The fifth and final main ingredient is vision. A leader must have a vision for not just their business goals but also for their lives both personal and professional. You want to be able to be able to tell people you have a vision for where you want to be 5-10-15 years from now for the company and for your life – they want to know you’re not just floating along life waiting for something to happen. They want to know that you’re a ‘doer’ not a ‘waiter’. People want to be on board with a leader but they want to know their final destination is going to be someplace exciting, not just dry-docked where they stand with you right now. Share with them your vision and teach them how they too can share in that vision.
Again, the path to leadership is going to vary from person to person. What’s important for one person might be slightly different for another, but the main principle is going to be the same. The core leadership values are how we as leaders chart the course of our lives – it is how we steady our ships and base our decisions. If we stay true to those core values then we succeed not just as leaders or in business but we succeed in the final game of life and that’s really what we’re all trying to do isn’t it?